August 24 – November 15
This trip was unlike any that we have taken in the past. Three major factors defined this difference:
- We would not, except for a brief period, be using a car for transportation
- We would not do any camping
- With the exception of our time with Francois, we would not be staying with friends or family, thus relying exclusively on hotels and Airbnb.
The genesis for the journey started a few years back, prior to our six-month trip to Europe in 2014 when we became fascinated with the Camino de Santiago (the St. James Way). We attended an introductory meeting at REI and this lit the fuse and would follow the Camino by car that year. I would ride a portion, about 15 miles from Pamplona before realizing that given our need to continue on the schedule we had set out, we’d have to leave the Camino for another time.
As the next couple of years rolled by we attended (when we were in town) the monthly meetings of the Charlotte Camino Group, a nice collection of Camino veterans and folks planning to walk a portion or all of the Way. Our travel goals for the next couple of years are to engage in trips that will challenge us physically, understanding that as we age our ability to do so will decline. Thus, doing the Camino jumped to the top of the list.
Initial planning was complicated by one of the best things to happen to us, ever, that is Jessica and Kris getting married in August. We also needed to return home by the middle of November in order to turn around and fly to Henderson, Nevada to celebrate Thanksgiving with the Mitchell’s extended family. But this at least provided us with our beginning and ending dates and from there on we fell to making arrangements.
The next step was to consider what countries, outside of Spain, to visit as well. We could easily have spent the additional time in Spain or France, but as Joanna had not ever been to Greece, and I not since 1979, that soon became our focus. Originally our thought was to tackle the Camino first, the logic being we’d be able to train for it as we’d need to walk in excess of ten miles per day and that Greece’s weather would still be nice later in the fall.
This got thrown out in the spring when we encountered two different constraints:
- Average attendance on all sections of the Camino for the months we planned to hike, August, September and October were 57,680, 42,189, and 31,341, respectively in 2017.
- The weather in Greece in late October and early November becomes quite cold and more important, ferry service and other activities between and on the islands scales back, limiting options.
So, we made what would turn out to be a very good decision and simply reversed the order of our travel, going first to Athens and then on to the Camino. Here is the full itinerary of our completed trip:
|August||25||2||1||Arrive Athens||Phaedra Hotel Athens|
|August||31||8||1||Fantasy Travel 5 Day Tour||Nafplia Palace/Arty Grand/ Amalia|
|Sept||1||9||1||Athens||Phaedra Hotel Athens|
|Sept||2||10||1||Ferry to Crete||Ferry Cabin|
|Sept||3||11||1||Crete – Iraklion||El Greco Hotel|
|Sept||4||12||1||Crete – South Coast||Castello Bianco Aparthotel|
|Sept||6||14||Crete – Chania/Samaria Gorge||Athina Beach Hotel|
|Sept||7||15||1||Crete – Moni Preveli/Iraklion||El Greco Hotel|
|Sept||8||16||1||Santorini||Caldera View Resort|
|Sept||11||19||1||Naxos||Agia Anna Naxos|
|Sept||23||31||1||St. Jean||Gite Makila|
|Sept||25||33||1||Roncesvalles||Albergue de Peregrinos|
|Sept||27||35||1||Pamplona||Albergue Plaza Cathedral|
|Sept||28||36||1||Puente de la Reina||Abergue Jakue|
|Sept||30||38||1||Los Arcos||Pension Los Arcos|
|Oct||2||40||1||Navarrete||La Casa del Peregrino|
|Oct||3||41||1||Najera||Puerta de Najera|
|Oct||4||42||1||Santo Domingo||Pension Miguel|
|Oct||6||44||1||Burgos||Abergue Municipal de Burgos|
|Oct||8||46||1||Carrion de Los Condes||Hostel Albe|
|Oct||10||48||1||Leon||Check in Leon|
|Oct||11||49||1||Astorga||Albergue Siervas de Maria|
|Oct||13||51||1||O Cebreiro||Meson Anton|
|Oct||15||53||1||Melide||A Lua do Camino|
|Oct||16||54||1||Santiago de Compostela||Hostal La Salle|
|Oct||19||57||1||Leon||Check In Leon|
|Nov||2||71||1||Arles||Best Western Hotel Atrium|
|Nov||5||74||1||LʼIsle-sur-la-Sorgue||Hotel Les Nevons|
Readers of this blog will also now see the trip as it played out in order, unlike that of my posts which I changed around to accommodate our Camino journey, wanting to report on it as close to live as possible. Thus, I posted about Greece only through our initial stop in Athens before switching over to reporting on our time in Spain. Also, as I returned to work in early December of 2017, filling in as the Director of the Auxiliaries at UNC Charlotte, we wouldn’t be traveling much during the nearly five months of full time work; instead of posting every two to three days as normal, I switched to every five days, which is why I’m not closing out this trip until now.
I won’t cover air fare costs as most folks have different needs in that regards, some shopping for the cheapest they can find regardless of the complications that might follow them, others use miles or can afford to fly first class. For us, my philosophy remains to pick an airline and remain loyal to it, as other benefits accrue that may not be directly related to the fare itself. Also, if you are going to spend a good deal of money overall, in this case our three months ran us nearly $15,000, what difference does a hundred dollars or so make when choosing your carrier? Also, should problems arise, you deal directly with the airline, not a third party consolidator.
That total amount seems shocking and yet, as I’ll get into later, for three months of travel it worked out to $175 a day for the two of us. That is, for the average cost of staying one night in a good quality hotel (Marriott, Sheraton, etc.) in America, the two of us, lodged, ate, transported and engaged in a number of cultural activities each day
Before the trip, I created a budget to try and determine how much more the trip would cost us above and beyond our normal living expenses. I was pleasantly surprised to determine that in reality, given our style of travel, it isn’t much more expensive than staying at home.
First, I took our normal income and expenses and came up with a net balance at the end of each month. I then added back in the expenses we would still incur based on spending assumptions, that is how much each week we spend on groceries, eating out, gasoline for the cars and entertainment. This left me with an amount of money that theoretically we could budget for each month on the trip.
|Days per Month||
|Net Monthly Income||1,070||1,070||1,070||1,070||4,280|
I then went to work on a budget for the trip. I based a number of my assumptions on information we had gathered at our Camino meetings as well as our own experiences in Europe in the past, particularly our last six-month outing in 2014. Here are the values I assigned to the four major categories:
Expense per day
I actually tried to predict our transportation needs, which turned out to be $300, $873, $0, and $400 for the months of August, September, October and November, respectively. With these assumptions in hand, I created the budget below, which when compared with our actual expenses, shows that the trip, budgeted at $157 per day actually ran us $175.
|Total Budget Expense||1,790||5,542||2,975||2,875||13,182|
|Total Actual Expense||2,345||5,574||3,931||2,877||14,727|
|Budget Per Day||224||185||96||192||157|
|Actual Per Day||293||186||127||192||175|
Our total budgeted expense was $13,182 with an actual of $14,727, or $1,545 dollars over budget. For eighty-four days of travel that isn’t too bad of a variance. And finally, overall, we had projected a deficit of $1,974 over our available spending and finished at $3,519, a negative variance of $1,545. One could reasonably conclude then, that outside of our airfare, our three-month ‘vacation’ cost us $3,500 more than our normal living expenses, or roughly $1,200 per month or $42 a day.
In subsequent posts I’ll reflect on each country and their relative expense and how and where we spent our money. But for now, we will wrap this one up with the observation that if you approach travel as a journey and not just a vacation, it’s not much more expensive than just staying at home.
Camino de Santiago: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago
Charlotte Camino Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1418344158467833/